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Square Meals Cafe program celebrated by many supporters

From Lois Cunningham and Barbara Armitage

Nearly a hundred friends gathered together Friday evening, February 10, 2017 to celebrate the successful first year of The Square Meals Cafe program.

The Square Meals Cafe is provided by the Farmers Market on the Square (FM2) with donations and volunteer hours from the community to provide free hot meals for all kids and students at the Square Meals Cafe. Each Saturday from April through October, breakfast and lunch are served to all kids and students at the market for free -- made fresh with ingredients from local farmers.

Square Meals provides a unique opportunity to combat hunger in our community, encourage healthy eating habits, improve the overall health of our community's children, educate families about healthy food preparation and support our local farmers.

Where The Square Meals Cafe began...
- A local farm donated a concession trailer, equipment and all the necessary licenses.
- We asked for sponsors - we hoped for $3,000 and raised $14,616.48.
- We bought tents, tables and chairs to build our cafe.
- Nine local farmers stepped up to donate fresh fruit, vegetables, eggs, cheese, salsa, sausage and even a whole cow.

In the first year...
- Everything exceeded expectations for 2016.
- Over 2,500 meals were served - we had expected to serve about 1,000.
- The cafe became an alternative to fast food - whole families eating healthy food together again.
- The cafe is a judgement-free place where all kids and students eat free, and where adults can eat for a small donation of $4 per meal.
- Menus were designed not to just fill tummies but to teach kids that good food choices taste good.
- Kids liked learning how to cook at the "Kids Kitchen" and they loved tasting new and different foods.
- An average of 46 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables were served every day at the cafe.
- More than 1300 free-range eggs were served for breakfast.
- In the summer our "Kids Bucks" program sponsored by Community Farm Alliance and FM2 gave each child $5 a month in coupons to spend at the market.
- Volunteers worked more than 1,000 hours in 2016 to bring this cafe to our community.
- Kids visiting from California, Michigan and New York ate with us.
- We added "Starbright Crafts" to the program to bring out the creative side of kids.
- We saw young people change from a "I won't eat that" attitude to a "I love to taste new foods" attitude.
- Kids learned to respect the environment and clean up after themselves - all our tableware is bio-degradable.
- Kids learned about making choices. Everyone is welcome to eat all they want however, to earn a dessert you must taste everything on your plate

Future depends on the public...
FM2 continues to ask for community help to offset the cost of fresh ingredients and supplies for this program.
For more information, contact Barbara Armitage 270.250.2979 or Lois Cunningham 270.378 0260 or visit the FM2 Welcome Tent Saturday mornings in the parking lot across from City Hall in Columbia from 8am to 1pmCT.

FM2 operates a diverse and exciting farmers' market that contributes to the success of local food growers and producers, strengthens local food economy and serves as a community gathering place.
Farmers Market news is provided by, a founding communications sponsor of both the original Farmers Market at the Extension Office and of FM2 from its start in front of the Courthouse Annex on the Public Square. The magazine continues to support our farmers and the growth of healthy crops in this region. -- Linda Waggener

This story was posted on 2017-02-16 17:25:28
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